December 11, 2013
This article proposes the creation of a new international sustainability standard certifying that wages and working conditions are set in ongoing processes of good faith collective bargaining. Businesses and unions that comply with the standard will be entitled to apply the ‘Fair Work: Union Made’ label to their products and services. The authors argue that while such a voluntary standard cannot substitute for robust collective and individual labour law, it is likely to be an effective means of promoting collective industrial relations.
If you are interested in being part of a small team to take this idea further, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (more…)
December 3, 2013
This week sees yet another make or break conference for the interminable Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks, writes network member Conor Cradden. This time it’s in Bali, and on the agenda (yet again) is breaking the deadlock about multilateral trade regulation (for a quick guide to what’s going on see this piece on the Guardian website).
But, frankly, who really gives a damn? And, more to the point, is export-led development really the only way to a bright future for poorer countries, or is it mostly just a convenient way for a very small number of people in these countries and in the global north to make a lot of money? More yet to the point, is the significantly more socially and economically advantageous strategy of focusing on expanding domestic demand being kept off the agenda because it implies involving workers directly in decisions about pay and conditions? (more…)
November 28, 2013
Network member Mike Waghorne has written in to recommend Donna McGuire’s new book, ‘Re-framing Trade: union mobilisation against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)‘. Mike says:
Donna is a doctoral graduate of the Global Labour University programme in Germany. Her doctoral thesis, of which this is the book, is on union campaigns on the World Trade Organisation’s GATS. She focuses on two Global Union Federations, Public Services International (PSI) and Education International (EI), the two GUFs most involved in this campaign. She looks at the global campaigns by PSI and EI, including their attempts to involve their national affiliates. She includes a lot of material on their work with a number of NGOs and other civil society organisations, all new work for many union organisations. She also has extensive case studies on union campaigns in two countries, Australia and South Africa. The advantage for me in this book is that, whilst she naturally looks at all the successes achieved, she also looks at the failures of the campaigns, something not often found in work on union campaigns. It is a very useful analysis of campaign work on a global issue which can be very challenging for global unions.
The book was published in 2013 and can be purchased from Rainer Hampp Verlagwww publishers (click here) or ‘soft copy’ can be downloaded from Universität Kassel here: http://goo.gl/mTPLZh.
October 5, 2013
Rather than modernising the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon has begun to drag it, kicking and screaming, back into the 1980s. He has spent seven years as an “invisible man” (his own description) but now the Secretary General is starting to make his mark. One can only hope it does not leave a permanent stain.
Ban emerged as front-runner for the General-Secretary position in 2006, “largely thanks to the United States, which was looking for an especially bland candidate after knocking heads so often with Kofi Annan over the Iraq war”.(1)
In keeping with this expectation, Ban likes to boast that in Korea he is known as the “slippery eel” because it is impossible to hold onto anything he says. It is little wonder, then, that those who wanted progressive change in the UN soon became exasperated. In fact, there have been calls for his resignation since 2009. This is what Foreign Policy magazine had to say:
“…at a time when global leadership is urgently needed, when climate change and international terrorism and the biggest financial crisis in 60 years might seem to require some—any!—response, the former South Korean foreign minister has instead been trotting the globe collecting honorary degrees, issuing utterly forgettable statements, and generally frittering away any influence he might command.”(2)
More recently, Ban has become visible. Unfortunately, his true colours are not a pretty sight. In fact, his recent bureaucratic manouevres are an open betrayal of the organisation’s founding ideals. (more…)
July 5, 2013
Speaking to Greek activists and unionists in 2013, network member Dan Gallin* presented an overview of the progress (and otherwise!) of the labour movement in the 20th century. While there is much we can learn from the past, there is also much we must leave behind. Dan has been a union leader most of his life, and he has seen the union movement at its best and its worst. Yes, capitalism is in crisis: austerity is their solution. However, the labour movement is also in crisis. Our solution must be both revolutionary and democratic. Dan is working with a growing cohort of like-minded activists to repoliticise the labour movement. (more…)
July 1, 2013
Perhaps the left is not as divided as the right would have us believe.
Back in 2011 we looked at four alternatives to capitalism that had been proposed since 2000 (see http://goo.gl/GB7Qs). All of the models had one thing in common: they all called for the democratization of work. In 2008 this became one of New Unionism’s four key principles (more). Of course, the Bolivarians have been saying this for years (recently here). And Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky have since joined the chorus (here and here). Now there’s a major new voice provides a thumping bass: Richard Wolff’s “Workplace Democracy: A Cure for Capitalism” (Haymarket 2013).
In many ways, Wolff’s book is the one to start with. You might then go on to read about socialist markets, participatory economics or occupational citizenship (a la Schweickart, Albert and Standing respectively), but at least you’d have done the big-picture thinking first.
Let me try to provide an overview in one paragraph, for those who can’t afford $15 +p&p (order here). Apologies to Prof Wolff for what follows — one must murder in order to dissect. Eighteenth century revolutions in France and the USA delivered people from monarchy and ushered in a new age of democracy. Or so the dominant narrative would have us believe. In reality, democracy was never extended into the field of economics. Rather, the revolutions delivered control of production and distribution into the hands of the emerging capitalist class. Something similar happened with the Russian revolution, although it was the State and the Party that ended up with control of economics. Wolff argues that the people who produce the goods (or services) should be the same folks who decide on what to do with the value they create. He explains his rationale quite logically (there is no trace of table-thumping in this book), and puts up a pretty convincing case for the view that this would change dynamics right at the base of society. Workplace democracy may not be a solution to the cycle of crises in itelf, but at long last it allows for solutions to emerge. Hell, we might even survive as a species. (more…)